Jun. 18—When a record-setting defense in points allowed graduates nine, that's enough of a signal that things may be a little different.
For Class 4A state champion Wagoner to come close to last year's effort, newcomers will have to step up.
Other mysteries rest at Muskogee and Haskell, where both saw substantial game counts taken by COVID issues. Muskogee had seven, Haskell six. Both were young, they had a combined one win, and both have new head coaches.
Things will take shape as the preseason progresses. But here's a very early look at some of the top players at each position.
Early signs point to a new "Wagoner" on defense: Gore.
—Fred Watson, Sr., Wagoner: All-Phoenix a year ago and one of two returning starters. The 6-foot, 225-pound Watson had 85 tackles, 20 solos and 18 pressures with one interception for a touchdown.
—Cason Albin, Sr., Hilldale: Disrupter at defensive end, the 6-1, 195 Albin caused four fumbles, 31 tackles for lost yardage of his 86 total tackles, 17 hurries and six sacks.
—Jaxon Harrison, Sr., Midway: The rangy 6-5, 220-pounder had six sacks a year ago.
Noah Cooper, So., Gore: The 5-11, 180 Newcomer of the Year in 2020 started every game and of his 61 tackles, 10 were for losses.
—Garrett Douthit, Jr., Gore: At 6-3, 275, he'll be a force in 2A requiring double-teams.
—Tim Murphy, Sr., Fort Gibson: Consistent leader on defense a year ago will be in a forefront role after 92 tackles, 45 solo, 6 sacks and 3 hurries.
—Dayne Perryman, Jr., Gore: Perryman (5-10, 180) had 84 tackles, 23 solo and a whopping 21 for lost yardage as a sophomore.
—Lynden Manning, Jr., Gore: Manning (5-7, 181) had 97 tackles, 18 solo with 10 resulting in lost yardage for the 5-7, 181-pounder.
—Brayden Smith, Jr., Hilldale: The 6-1, 181 Smith had 83 total tackles, 56 solo, with 18 for lost yardage.7 hurries and 4 sacks.
—Isaiah Givens, Sr., Muskogee: Was outstanding as a linebacker as a sophomore. Was moved to safety at the outset last year then back to linebacker due to injuries. Had 78 tackles and two sacks. Look for a much settled Givens this year at safety. At 6-1, 190, he could also be a factor at running back having gained 500 yards a year ago.
—Jackson Duke, Jr., Gore: Had seven interceptions, second in the area. The 5-10, 155-pounder had 51 tackles, 19 solo and eight for lost yardage.
—Brayson Lawson, Sr., Hilldale: Lawson (5-11, 187) had 12 pass deflections and two interceptions. Also caused one fumble.
—Callen Park, Sr., Warner: As a free safety a year ago, Park (6-1, 160) led the area in interceptions with eight. Had 43 tackles, 16 solo and deflected eight other passes.
—Cade Waggle, Jr., Fort Gibson: Waggle (5-11, 170) had three interceptions, four deflections, 28 tackles, 26 of which were solo.
—Hunter Branch, Jr., Fort Gibson: Branch (6-2, 155) had three interceptions, two deflections, six solo tackles.
—Kayson Flud, Sr., Checotah: Six interceptions and seven pass breakups.
—Cole Mahaney, Jr., Fort Gibson: Averaged 42.6 yards in making All-Phoenix. He's also the starting QB.
—Jaxson Whittiker, Sr., Hilldale: Averaged 39.8 yards on 24 attempts.